My Top 10 Herbs And Spices To Help Reduce Inflammation

Why We All Need More Anti-Inflammatory Foods In Our Diet

As a Physiotherapist I've come across hundreds of people who take artificial anti-inflammatory medication on a daily basis, however when I ask them about what anti-inflammatory foods they are consuming in their diet, I get lots of blank stares. Somewhere, something went majorly wrong in modern day health care (or sick-care as I now call it). Anti-inflammatory foods are not just important for those of us with inflammatory conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or other conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), they are also important for areas such as exercise/muscle recovery and heart health. Here are my favourite anti-inflammatory foods that I try and buy organic as much as possible. I've given you a few ideas of how to incorporate them into your diet but there are many other ways if you are feeling creative. 

1. Turmeric 

Turmeric is one of the most powerful natural anti-inflammatories and is often used to add flavour and colour to Asian food. A lot of research is currently being done on the health benefits of turmeric for other conditions such as cancer and heart disease. It is great for adding to cooking, making turmeric milk and can also be taken in tablet form. This is a must for your natural medicine cabinet. 

2. Ginger

My personal favourite (obviously), ginger is a highly potent anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory. Commonly used for indigestion and nausea but it has been found to help with other intestinal disorders and for decreasing pain and inflammation. Fresh ginger tea is my favourite but it also great for cooking with or adding to healthy desserts. 

3. Cayenne Pepper

Chili peppers contain natural compounds called capsaicinoids, which have anti-inflammatory properties. Cayenne and other dried chilies spice up sauces, marinades and rubs. Chilies can upset sensitive digestive systems, so start with just a small amount. 

4. Cinnamon

Cinnamon contains cinnamaldehyde and cinnamic acid, both of which have antioxidant  and anti-inflammatory properties that help inhibit cell damage caused by free radicals. Cinnamon is delicious mixed with oatmeal or added to smoothies or in your turmeric milk, but it’s not strong enough on its own to offer a therapeutic effect. Used in combination with other foods and spices, it may offer a cumulative anti-inflammatory effect over the course of the day.

5. Garlic

Garlic is a tasty addition to just about any savory dish. Like onions and leeks, it contains diallyl disulfide, an anti-inflammatory compound that limits the effects of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Garlic, therefore can help fight the pain, inflammation and cartilage damage of arthritis. Opt for fresh garlic from the produce section of your market because preservatives may be added to bottled garlic and processing may decrease some of its strength.

6. Black Pepper

Black pepper has been valued for its flavour and antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory benefits. Studies have shown that the chemical compounds of black pepper, particularly piperine, may be effective in the early acute inflammatory process. Piperine is also said to increase to absorption of turmeric into the body so its great to use when cooking with turmeric. I add black pepper to soups and stews as well as a small amount in my turmeric milk.

7. Cloves

Cloves contain eugenol, a compound similar to but more potent than cinnamon’s cinnamaldehye, and thus the spice also protects against the inflammation that underlies heart disease, cancer, and the other chronic diseases. Cloves are often added to autumnal recipes, like mulled wine apple cider, and whole cloves can be ground to add to spice mixtures for meats and other dishes. I like to add a clove to my turmeric milk while heating in the pan.

8. Sage

Carnosic acid and carnosol are the chief anti-inflammatory molecules that give sage its health benefits and contribute to its flavour/aroma. Sage is studied for its protective effect against inflammation-based neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s. In the kitchen, sage goes well with winter squash, in sausages, and with meat roasts. There are many different species of sage, so you may find a difference in flavour between types. 

9. Rosemary

Rosemary contains some of the same antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds as sage, and yet another that’s appropriately named “rosmarinic acid”. Why not use rosemary to flavour roasted vegetables, meats, or other cooked dishes. If you’re going to cook something in oil (saute or fry), add some rosemary to the oil to allow its antioxidants to help preserve the oil from oxidation.

10. Basil

Basil has a strong anti-inflammatory oil called eugenol. It is similar to the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, eugenol blocks the COX enzyme that mediates inflammation. Add fresh basil to pesto or soups, salads, sandwiches and stir-fries.

I would love to read some of your creative ways of using these ingredients in your diet, please leave your comments below with your ideas!